By: Mia Watson

Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Vermont home prices continued to climb in the first six months of 2020, based on the latest data from Vermont Property Transfer tax records. The median home sold for $234,940, a roughly 3% increase from 2019. Although the pandemic initially depressed the number of sales, the housing market appears to have returned to near-normal conditions as of the end of June.

Sale prices increased during the last six months at a similar rate as prior years. In January through June 2020, the median single family home sold for $240,000, the median condominium sold for $212,900 and the median mobile home with land sold for $94,250.  Since 2014, the statewide median home sales price has risen at an average rate of 3%.

The volume of Vermont home sales for the first six months of 2020 were lower than would be expected in a normal year, with 2,508 primary home sales compared to 3,380 sales during the same period in 2019. However, while the number of home sales was down significantly in March through May, June sales were only 11% lower than the prior year. This likely results from the relaxation of Stay at Home orders and increased seller and Realtor ability to show homes.

Although there have been some initial reports of an unusually hot housing market, Vermont homes are currently selling slightly slower than in past years. The median Vermont home was on the market for 102 days this past June, compared to 90 days in June 2019. Days on market has fluctuated throughout the pandemic, but most counties have not seen highs or lows beyond their normal seasonal ranges. Days on market can be an indicator of the housing market overall, with homes selling more quickly because buyer demand is strong and/or the housing supply is limited. However, according to data from Redfin, while April new home listings were down 53% compared to the prior year, new listings in June were down only 5%. Although the pandemic temporarily disrupted the supply of homes on the market, it appears to have rebounded to conditions that would be expected for this time of year. 

As in Vermont, despite the widespread economic disruption caused by the pandemic, the housing market is currently showing signs of strength nationally. Analysts point to a low inventory of homes in many areas, historically low mortgage rates, and buyer demand for larger living spaces or a less urban environment during the pandemic. The pandemic’s impact on jobs has been felt most among lower-wage workers in hospitality and food-service industries, who are more likely to be renters and less likely to be able to afford a home under even normal circumstances. Many white-collar workers have been able to transition to remote work with minimal impact on their incomes.

Some experts believe this could change in the second half of the year. If the economy continues to lag, the number of buyers who wish to move and can afford it may dry up. If federal unemployment benefits and forbearance agreements expire, many U.S. households could be forced into foreclosure, decreasing home prices. However, it is unlikely that Vermont will see a substantial drop in home prices. During the last recession, Vermont median home prices decreased by just 5% before regaining their full value within five years.  Vermont’s COVID-19 mortgage assistance program is also mitigating harm to the housing market by helping qualified home owners avoid foreclosure through grants for up to 6 months of missed mortgage payments.